Mindfulness, Psychotherapy, And Self-Help For Managing Anxiety
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the US, affecting more than 40 million adults annually. However, despite their prevalence, many people may not know how to cope with symptoms. Anxiety is a highly treatable condition, and many people find success in managing anxiety through techniques like mindfulness, psychotherapy, or self-help practices. Consider these areas as you develop your routine for managing anxiety.
What Does It Mean To Manage Anxiety?
Anxiety can involve intense fear, as it is related to the fight-or-flight response, which is controlled by the nervous system. Many people associate fight-or-flight with dangerous scenarios like fighting off a predator. However, you may find that people, events, and places frighten you as much as physically dangerous scenarios.
People often experience fear when they face a situation that is out of their control or when fear of harm occurs. In many cases, it can feel like you have nowhere to hide or no way to fight back against daily stressors. Avoiding fear can also impose limitations on your life, which may be unhealthy. Therefore, it can be helpful to have coping strategies to use when anxiety occurs.
Mindfulness For Anxiety
Mindfulness meditation is based on ancient spiritual and Buddhist principles involving a change in mindset. It can also be used in therapy. One program, created by Jon Kabat Zinn called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, was developed on the premises of mindfulness. This program helped clients decrease their stress, manage pain, and reduce anxiety. Since the normalization of mindfulness in mental health, the practice has been extensively studied.
Mindfulness may mean being fully present in each moment. It can involve noticing what's happening within and around you as it's happening. Mindfulness can also involve paying attention to what you do, say, and express by observing your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. For example, you might be practicing mindfulness if you focus on breathing to calm yourself during the day.
Many people involve mindfulness in their daily routine to reduce anxiety and stress in the long term. As you progress, you may practice it several times or for an extended time each day. Recent research suggests you can train your brain and change its physical makeup over time through mindfulness practice.
Although mindfulness is not a type of psychology, psychologists may use it to promote relaxation and peacefulness. If you talk to a counselor about your anxiety, they may teach you how to practice mindfulness. If you're unsure how to start, your therapist may lead you through mindfulness practices in your session.
How Does Mindfulness Work?
You can use mindfulness in various situations in life, and it doesn't necessarily have to be a complex practice. Consider the following steps.
Choose A Time And Place
Think of a place where you can relax safely for a short time. Ensure it is a comfortable place without many distractions. Some mindfulness activities can also be done on the go if you have a few minutes during your break at work or while you go for a walk.
Notice The Present Moment
Start by noticing each of your five senses. What do you hear, see, smell, touch, or taste? Then, notice the physical feelings within your body, like any pain, numbness, or a growling stomach. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings as you notice them, and allow them to pass when ready.
Try to let all your observations pass through your mind without judging them. Notice them but don't try to categorize them or draw conclusions about them.
Allow Your Mind To Wander
Often, the goal of mindfulness is to stay in the present moment. It may be natural for the mind to wander into thoughts of the past or future. Try not to be a perfectionist about how you "should be" practicing. Just get back to mindfulness as gently as possible.
You can also practice moments of mindfulness throughout your day. When the phone rings or before you rush to work, stop, breathe, and notice the present moment first. You can also set a timer on your phone to remind you to pause and be mindful at a specific minute every day.
There are many strategies you can use to reduce your anxiety. Start by taking care of your physical health. You may naturally decrease your anxiety when you've had the right amount of healthy food, water, exercise, and sleep.
Your therapist can teach you several psychological techniques you can use on your own to reduce your anxiety. One example is thought-stopping. At times, fears get more significant when you dwell on them. The thought might repeat in your brain, building anxiety with every repetition. Thought-stopping is a way of breaking out of that fearful rut.
Psychological Support For Anxiety
Because anxiety is a mental illness, there are many psychological treatments you can try for treatment. Studies have found over 400 types of therapy available, so if one doesn't work for you, try another type.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy therapists use for many mental health conditions and symptoms. It uses a step-by-step process that includes the following:
- Noticing feelings and thoughts
- Identifying the thoughts behind the feelings
- Challenging those underlying thoughts
- Choosing whether to keep or let go of those thoughts
- Replacing unhelpful thoughts with helpful thoughts
- Changing behaviors to match new helpful thoughts
CBT may be beneficial for anxiety because fears often start with thoughts. Objects, events, and people may seem terrifying, even if they don't look dangerous or present an actual threat. The fear and resulting anxiety arise in your thoughts about the situation, so it may make sense to change your thoughts to reduce your fear.
As your therapist guides you through CBT, you may realize you can control and choose your thoughts. You can also learn other coping skills and techniques to try at home through this type of counseling, which could benefit your relationships, schedule, and home life.
Exposure therapy is a type of therapy often recommended to those with anxiety disorders. In this type of therapy, you gradually face your fears over time. In safe and monitored sessions with your therapist, you can repeatedly show yourself that exposure to your worst fears may not lead to the disastrous consequences you might believe.
Often, exposure therapy is done in person. However, new avenues are opening for this method. Clients may also be able to use virtual reality (VR) programs on a computer or augmented reality through an AR headset.
Alternative Counseling Options
Research shows that psychotherapy is generally more effective at treating anxiety than medication. If you're ready to start treatment to help you manage your anxiety, consider online therapy.
Online therapy may have many benefits for people with anxiety. For example, you don't have to worry about finding a local therapist, commuting to the office, or being put on a waitlist. With online therapy, you can be matched with an available therapist to get started immediately. Many people also find it easier to talk about complex subjects from home with the safe distance of a screen.
Research shows that online therapy is effective. One review found that online CBT led to a 50% improvement in symptoms of multiple anxiety disorders, including panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, as well as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. If you're ready to get started, consider contacting a counselor through a platform like BetterHelp, where you can meet with a therapist within 48 hours of signing up.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are a few of the most frequently asked questions about mindfulness and anxiety.
Does Mindfulness Help Anxiety?
Yes, mindfulness can be beneficial for reducing anxiety. One study found that mindfulness could reduce anxiety, depression, and stress simultaneously. Mindfulness may open your mind to present-moment awareness, allowing you to accept your emotions and thoughts and mindfully change them.
How Can I Practice Mindfulness And Reduce Anxiety?
Mindfulness techniques for anxiety begin by setting an intention. If you are struggling with anxiety, seek support to distinguish what thoughts are rooted in the past and future. Fears of the future or memories of the past often cause anxiety. Mindfulness allows you to be in the present moment throughout the day, setting your fears and regrets aside and remaining present with your awareness.
Does Mindfulness Help Memory?
Many licensed mental health practitioners and psychologists suggest that mindfulness positively impacts memory. One study shows that participants who practiced mindfulness for eight weeks began to show signs of increased thickness of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that affects short and long-term memory.
Is Mindfulness Beneficial For Depression?
Yes, mindfulness is beneficial for depression. Bringing yourself into the present moment may help you reach emotions underneath the surface. Often, people with depression have trouble accessing their emotions. Bringing these emotions to the surface may allow them to move and integrate into the body instead of remaining stagnant. Mindfulness may also improve mood.
What Is Mindfulness In Psychology?
Mindfulness is the practice of attaining a new state of being in the world through present-moment awareness. In psychology, it might be referred to as non-judgmental awareness. There are a few forms of mindfulness-based therapy modalities, including mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).
What Are Mindfulness Techniques?
Mindfulness techniques may include mindfulness meditation, which involves sitting in a relaxed state and becoming aware of your thoughts and feelings in the present moment without judgment. Mindfulness practices and techniques may also include deep breathing, paying attention to your thoughts and emotions throughout the day, and using positive psychology to bring non-judgmental awareness to certain behaviors.
How Does Mindfulness Benefit Mental Health?
Mindfulness may help people manage their thoughts and feelings, positively affecting their mental health. Mindfulness experts suggest that practicing mindfulness can boost concentration, bring more insight into emotions, and improve relationships. Regular mindfulness practice may also lower blood pressure, calming the nervous system and controlling the body.
How Does Mindfulness Make You Feel?
Practicing mindfulness often involves feeling your emotions. Mindfulness methods could bring up emotions that feel uncomfortable. However, being present with your emotions may lessen them over time, as you are not suppressing them. Anxiety is often based on past regrets or fears of the future, so bringing your attention to the present moment may help you reduce it over time.
What Are The Four Foundations Of Mindfulness?
The four foundations of mindfulness include the following:
- Mindfulness of the body
- Mindfulness of feelings or sensations
- Mindfulness of mind or consciousness
- Mindfulness of Dhammas (truth)
What Are Three Positive Effects Of Mindfulness?
Three positive effects of mindfulness include lower anxiety levels, stress reduction, and mood elevation.
What Are The Three Components Of Mindfulness?
The three components of mindfulness may include:
- Intention: To activate awareness
- Attention: To become aware of what's happening in the present moment
- Attitude: To come from a place of being non-judgmental and kind
How Can I Be Mindful Every Day?
Practicing mindfulness daily can include meditation or setting reminders on your phone to return to the present. If you're unsure how to sustain mindfulness practice, consider finding a therapist familiar with mindfulness methods used in psychology. Having support may help you stay consistent with your mindfulness practice.
How Can I Live A Mindful Life?
Below are a few ways to have a mindful life:
- Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings
- Find a therapist to help you bring this awareness forth
- Set reminders for yourself daily to check in and bring awareness to the present moment
- Notice when your mind begins to wander
- Try mindfulness on the go
- Partake in daily tasks mindfully
How Do I Start Mindfulness?
To start learning mindfulness, consider finding a mindfulness-based therapist. A therapist can help you become aware of your feelings and the behaviors surrounding your emotions. In addition, they can teach you modern forms of mindfulness activities that have been proven effective in psychological research. If you're not ready to see a therapist, you might also try a mindfulness workbook or self-help book.
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